Bildner, Phil

Author, visits elementary schools talking with students about the writing process

Visits with Gay Straight Alliance clubs in the district while in town

Disinvited by Round Rock ISD schools after making a statement “statement to students regarding not listening to the grownups in their lives.”

Round Rock ISD Statement –
“Round Rock ISD has a tradition of inviting authors into our schools because it supports creativity, diverse perspectives, and promotes the importance of reading. Phil Bildner has been a regular visitor to our libraries for the past eight years. In making this determination to not have Mr. Bildner in our touring author program, our district’s leadership decided it was in the best interest of students to allocate our financial resources to bring different authors to our schools. The messages of tolerance and acceptance in Mr. Bildner books align with our district and schools’ goals for student learning; however, his message regarding children listening to their parents was not acceptable during his presentations last year, which played into our determination to not contract with him this year.

In multiple presentations last year, Mr. Bildner made a statement to students regarding not listening to the grownups in their lives. Although the intent of the statement may not have been advising students to directly disobey their parents, the message was not in alignment with the values of Round Rock ISD. We feel we are partners with every parent who joins our district and our goal is to work together to meet the individual needs of every student. Parents are our most valued partners. The role of the parent is the most important in a student’s education, and schools cannot afford to discredit our partners.

Due to their educational value and quality, books Mr. Bildner has authored and books he regularly references in his presentations have been and will continue to be in our libraries. Round Rock ISD has world class librarians who are champions for promoting reading, creating learning opportunities, and ensuring students have access to diverse and varied perspectives. These proud, professional educators are warriors for the written word. Our librarians are passionate about bringing their students’ favorite authors into our schools, and it would be a shame for this incident to lead to missed opportunities for students.”

“Author Phil Bildner, who has visited Round Rock schools annually for the last seven years, questions whether censorship played a role, given a book he recommended during his visit last year: Alex Gino’s novel “George,” which spotlights a fourth-grade student’s transgender journey.”


It Gets Better

About the It Gets Better Project

The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.

What is the It Gets Better Project?

In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.

The It Gets Better Project™ has become a worldwide movement, inspiring more than 50,000 user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee”, Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it.
View Timeline on How It’s Gotten Better

See how it’s gotten better thanks to the efforts of supporters, LGBT organizations, activists and allies worldwide since 2010.
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International Affiliate Program

The It Gets Better Project brings messages of hope to LGBT youth around the world and works globally to effect change in local communities.

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Our mailing address is: It Gets Better Project | 110 S. Fairfax Avenue Suite A11-71 | Los Angeles, CA 90036.

It Gets Better Project is a registered 501(c)3 organization, and all contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
It Gets Better Blog

Posted April 13, 2017
“Dance for Pride” in New Delhi

“There are not many events in India, other than Pride, when we can come down on streets and talk about our sexuality.”

Watch the video by Those in Need, presented by SCRUFF here.

Access the FB page for our India affiliate of It Gets Better here.

Posted April 12, 2017
Osaka the first city in Japan to certify gay couple as foster parents | The Japan Times

Praise hands emojis everywhere.

Posted April 12, 2017

Posted April 11, 2017
Parents Give Words of Affirmation to Their Transgender Children

“Say ‘I am Epic.’”

“Say ‘I am Loved – Deeply and Unconditionally, JUST AS I AM.’”

“I am Hope.”

“I’m a Boy.’”

“I am Courageous.”

“I am Magic.”

“I’m a Drummer.”

“I can get Back Up again.”

“I am Ferocious.”

Watch the video at The Scene.

Posted April 10, 2017


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It Gets Better Project is a registered 501(c)3 organization, and all contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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Out Youth

Out Youth serves the Central Texas LGBTQ+ (lesbian/gay/bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) youth and their allies with programs and services to ensure these promising young people develop into happy, healthy, successful adults.

Founded in 1990, Out Youth has grown and changed over the years, but we’ve always retained our most important facet – providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to come together, receive support, and make friends who understand who they are.

We host a variety of programs and services for youth, and provide trainings and resources for parents, teachers and community members.

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Expect Respect


Expect Respect® engages youth, parents, schools and community organizations in promoting healthy teen relationships and preventing dating abuse. Click here to view a video about our program.

Teen dating abuse is a serious public health problem.

One in ten students report having been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the year preceeding the survey. Teen dating abuse increases teens’ risk for abusive relationships as adults; physical, emotional and mental health problems including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse; unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; and dropping out of school.

Expect Respect offers a comprehensive prevention program for middle and high school students.

Serving Austin-area schools since 1988, Expect Respect is built on an ecological, trauma-informed model and offers a comprehensive prevention program for youth in middle and high schools. Expect Respect has 3 primary program components that 1) support boys and girls who have been exposed to violence, 2) mobilize youth as leaders and 3) engage schools, parents and community organizations in creating safe and healthy environments.
Program Goals and Activities
Support Youth Exposed to Violence

Many youth experience violence at home, in the community, and in their peer or dating relationships. They need emotional support and intervention to heal from trauma and build skills for healthy relationships. Expect Respect provides counseling and weekly, curriculum-based support group sessions at school for youth exposed to violence or abuse.
Mobilize Youth Leaders

Teens want to be part of the movement to stop violence and abuse. Expect Respect educates and empowers teens with the knowledge and skills they need to design and lead prevention efforts in their schools and communities. Youth Leadership Groups are offered during the school year on campus and during the summer in collaboration with the City of Austin/Travis County Work-based Learning/ Summer Youth Employment Program.

The Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble, a collaborative project with Creative Action, consists of talented and dedicated youth who create and tour original performances on teen relationship issues.
Create Safe Schools and Communities

Everyone in the community has a stake and a role to play in preventing dating and sexual violence among teens. Expect Respect works with parents, teachers, coaches, nurses and other important adults in teens’ lives to promote safe and healthy relationships.



SAFE | Stop Abuse For Everyone

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Board and Leadership Team
The SAFE Alliance Staff
Executive Office
Kelly White HeadshotKelly White
Chief Executive Officer Julia Spann HeadshotJulia Spann, MSW

Senior Leadership
Wendie Abramson HeadshotWendie Abramson, LMSW
Chief Quality Officer Melinda Cantu HeadshotMelinda Cantu, MSW
Vice President, Housing, Healing, and Support Services Derrick Crowe HeadshotDerrick Crowe
Director of Communications
Angela Glode HeadshotAngela Glode
Chief Development Officer Kitt Krejci HeadshotKitt Krejci
Chief Financial Officer Daniel Cox Malyszka HeadshotDaniel Cox Malyszka, PHR, FPC, SHRM-CP
Chief Human Resource Officer
Maren Strachan HeadshotMaren Strachan
Chief Operations Officer Coni Stogner HeadshotConi Stogner
Vice President of Prevention and Community Services
Senior Directors

Aja Gair
Senior Director of Community Advocacy

Kari Hamilton
Senior Director, Residential Services, Austin Children’s Shelter

Yvette Mendoza Rouen
Senior Director of Shelter & Children’s Services at SafePlace

Barri Rosenbluth, LCSW
Senior Director, Expect Respect

Abigail Sharp
Senior Director of Child Abuse Prevention

The SAFE Alliance Board of Directors

Michael Simons, Chair
Vinson & Elkins

Cameron Brown, Vice Chair

Bob May, Treasurer and Immediate Past Board Chair
Formerly McCombs School of Business, University of Texas
Boone Almanza
Almanza, Blackburn & Dickie, LLP
Noël Busch-Armendariz,
Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, University of Texas
Gerardo Castillo
Capital Metro
Quan Cosby
Marsh & McLennan Companies
John Daigre
Dell Medical School at University of Texas at Austin Gretchen Ellis
GWA Partners, LP
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G-51 Capital Janet Heher
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Cisco Systems Shannon Hutcheson
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Duggins Wren Mann & Romero, LLP Chance Sampson
Entergy Texas, Inc.
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St. David’s HealthCare Todd Stewart
Dealer Wizard
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University of Texas Rachael Wyatt
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Welcoming Schools

Welcoming Schools is an SEL program in Austin ISD that asks teachers to do Human Sexuality Instruction for 4, 5, and 6 year old students.

“Welcoming Schools, which is a project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, offers lessons, resources, and other tools for educators and parents on topics related to family diversity, avoiding gender stereotyping and affirming gender, and ending bullying.”

“In 2004, Greater Boston PFLAG, lead by Pam Garramone, called together a group of community members, including an elementary school principal, a social worker, teachers, same-sex parents, safe school trainers and a social-emotional program consultant to examine how LGBTQ topics affected elementary students.

Simultaneously, in 2005, the Human Rights Campaign, at the time focused primarily on political lobbying, realized that the organization also needed a public education and outreach component to increase understanding of LGBTQ people and the importance of LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices; this became the HRC Foundation.

Ellen Kahn, while working to build the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth, and Families program, was eager to develop a program to help elementary schools support children with LGBTQ parents. Ellen organized a meeting of experts from across the country, including Kathy Pillsbury, who was part of the Boston group leading Welcoming Schools. It quickly became clear that Welcoming Schools would be a perfect addition to the program. In 2006, the volunteers who developed Welcoming Schools transferred ownership from Greater Boston PFLAG and GLSEN Boston to the HRC Foundation.

The HRC Welcoming Schools team of staff and training consultants, lead by Kim Westheimer, provided trainings to schools and districts from 2006 to 2014. During this time, HRC Welcoming Schools developed partnerships with national, regional and local education and safe school organizations and created a website to make resources accessible to elementary schools, educators and parents across the country.

In 2015, under the direction of Johanna Eager, HRC Welcoming Schools hosted its inaugural Facilitator Certification Program, bringing together 30 community members, advocates and educators from across the country to be prepared to bring HRC’s Welcoming Schools back to their schools and communities. The facilitators spent three days at HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C to learn to provide elementary schools and districts with professional development on the HRC Welcoming Schools approach to foster an LGBTQ- and gender-inclusive school climate so that all children can thrive.”

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Ellen Kahn
Director, Children Youth and Families Program

Since 2005, Ellen Kahn has served as Director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth & Families Program. In this role, Ellen provides national leadership and expertise in public education and advocacy efforts to achieve full inclusion and equality for LGBTQ youth and families. Under Ellen’s leadership, HRC Foundation launched three highly successful, innovative programs that promote fair and inclusive policies and practices –– All Children—All Families, Welcoming Schools, and Youth Well-Being, anchored by the annual Time to THRIVE conference to support LGBTQ youth.

Prior to joining HRC, Ellen spent 12 years at Whitman-Walker Health in various roles, including Director of the Lesbian Services Program, Associate Director of LGBT Health Promotion and supervisor of a behavioral health program for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Ellen currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of Rainbow Families DC, the capital area’s support and education organization for LGBTQ-headed families. She has helped to develop and facilitate “Maybe Baby” classes for prospective LGBTQ parents for 16 years! Ellen earned her B.S. from Temple University and her M.S.S. from the Bryn Mawr College School of Social Work and Social Research. Ellen is the proud mom of two fabulous daughters and lives in Silver Spring, Md.

Johanna Eager
Director, HRC Welcoming Schools

Johanna Eager has been involved with equity issues in E/K-12 education for over 20 years as a professional educator. Johanna provides leadership and expertise in addressing identity-based bullying in schools with an emphasis on intersectionality, gender and LGBTQ-inclusivity. Johanna started with HRC Welcoming Schools as the Regional Consultant for the Upper Midwest in 2011.

Prior to joining HRC Welcoming Schools, Johanna worked as a high-school teacher and administrator in public education. Johanna’s areas of expertise include the following: E-12 equity and social justice professional development, equity organizational change initiatives, intercultural communications (Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory), anti-racism and white privilege education and fostering LGBTQ-inclusive schools that respect the complexity of gender.

Johanna’s mind and heart are hardwired to work toward equity and social justice, in particular, for all youth, families and staff in E-12 schools. Johanna will forever consider weeknights “school nights” and will get to bed early in order to be ready for “school” the next day!

Cheryl Greene
Deputy Director Welcoming Schools
Facilitator Certification Program Manager

Cheryl Greene has spent her career in education and is passionate about making school a place where all children can thrive. In her current role at Welcoming Schools, she manages the Facilitator Certification Program, which trains and equips outstanding facilitators across the country to provide professional development, support and resources aimed at making elementary schools welcoming for all students and families.

Cheryl was a teacher and school leader for over two decades before joining Welcoming Schools. During that time, it became clear to her that until students feel safe, respected and valued, very little learning occurs.

In addition to her work with Welcoming Schools, Cheryl is a nationally certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Specialist and is the Program Coordinator/Adjunct Professor for Hamline University’s Graduate Bullying Prevention Certificate Program.

Cheryl is married to an amazing woman and together they have four wonderful children.

Charles Girard
Coordinator, HRC Welcoming Schools

Charles Girard began working with queer justice in college as a founder of the University of Mary Washington’s Gender-Neutral Housing initiative. He served as Vice President of his college’s queer student group PRISM, and was the recipient of UMW’s 2012 Citizenship Award for Diversity Leadership Scholarship. After graduating with a degree in American Studies, concentrating in gender and sexuality, he joined the AmeriCorps program City Year, serving for a year as a tutor, mentor and role model to third graders in an under-served elementary school in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8.

Charles was a runner up in HRC’s 2010 Generation Equality scholarship for campus activism, interned with the Youth and Campus department in 2012 and began his current position on the HRC Welcoming Schools team in 2014.

Charles enjoys riding his bike through D.C. and snuggling his two pet rabbits Linus and Waffles.

Tarah Fleming, M.A. Ed., CPC
Our Family Coalition Partner
Welcoming Schools Expert Trainer

Tarah has over 25 years of experience internationally, and locally as an educator and facilitator on issues of social justice, equity and inclusion, anti-bias education and the dynamics of power and privilege. Her strong desire to work as a change agent and ally in multiple solidarity movements led her to Our Family Coalition where she is now the Education Director working with LGBTQ families. For the last 13 years she has been a dedicated participant and presenter at the White Privilege Conference. She developed and co-directed the Youth Action Project (YAP) for high school students, which is currently in its eighth year of success at the White Privilege Conference today. Tarah also directs her consulting and coaching practice called Start Dialog where she provides personal and professional coaching for educators and activists, as well as facilitated dialog and training for real systems change.

Michele Hatchell
Welcoming Schools Expert Trainer

Michele Hatchell has been a public school elementary art teacher for over twenty years in Chicago and Madison, WI. For the past five years, Michele has and continues to serve as a Welcoming Schools-Gender Spectrum teacher and staff trainer for the Madison Metropolitan School District. She has provided guidance and expertise throughout Wisconsin to schools, universities and hospitals on best practices to create welcoming and safe spaces for people of all gender identities. She is also a professional artist and has created individual and public art with folks of all ages in communities, schools, museums and college campuses. In 2014, her elementary students challenged Lego to be more gender and culturally inclusive with their belief that Different Is Perfect. She believes strongly that the Welcoming Schools approach can successfully create schools where students and staff work together to include others, celebrate differences and cultivate ally behaviors for the benefit of all.

Kathy Pillsbury
Welcoming Schools Consultant

Kathy Pillsbury was one of the founders of Welcoming Schools and continues to be an active consultant for the project. When her children, who are now 24 and 18, first started school, Kathy became active in her children’s school community. At the same time, she began actively researching materials to help her children’s teachers understand their family and help her children thrive and feel safe at school. Kathy served on the Board of GLSEN Boston for many years before the development of Welcoming Schools.

Prior to her work with HRC Welcoming Schools, Kathy was a financial director and project manager for non-profit organizations. She oversaw budget and cash flow management, direct-mail and telemarketing campaigns, strategic research projects and produced educational campaign materials including the Academy Award winning film, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment. Kathy earned her B.A. from Goddard College and her MBA from the Yale School of Management.

Rick Oculto
Our Family Coalition Partner

Rick is currently the Education Coordinator at Our Family Coalition. Formerly the Youth Services Coordinator at Billy DeFrank LGBT Center in San José, CA, Rick developed programs that addressed LGBT youth issues and created the first transgender youth support group in the area. Rick has conducted trainings for hundreds of students, educators, and youth workers focusing on diversity, harassment, gender stereotypes, and other LGBT issues. He holds a dual B.A. degree in Psychology and Spanish from Seattle University and a M.S.W. at UC Berkeley specializing in management and planning. He is the board chair of Streetside Stories, a youth-focused, media arts literacy organization in San Francisco and coordinates volunteer events for SF Gaymers, a social group that recognizes diversity within the gaming community and creates safe gaming spaces for LGBT people. Rick lives and games in San Francisco and frequently visits his family in the South Bay.

Wright, Tracy

Tracy Wright is a skilled eLearning and Professional Development (PD) specialist who is currently directing the CDC-DASH PD contract. Before coming to ETR, she served as the National Network Learning Manager for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. In that capacity, she led the development and execution of an overall strategy to support the Healthy Schools Program (HSP) in delivering high-quality PD through distance-learning modalities for HSP schools. She was responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of all distance learning events offered through HSP, including live virtual trainings, on-demand trainings, webinars, tutorials and online courses. In addition, she designed and conducted virtual training and technical assistance opportunities to build the capacity of Alliance staff to design and deliver high-quality virtual learning events.

Prior to her work at the Alliance, Ms. Wright worked at RMC Health as a PD and Distance Learning Consultant for two CDC-DASH-funded projects: the Evaluation Research Team (ERT) and the Professional Development Partnership Team (PDP). She has also served as a health education teacher at both the middle and high school levels. She is currently teaming with ETR staff to write an addendum to a recently published PD synthesis paper that will highlight the critical design variables for effective web-based learning. She holds a Master’s degree in adult education with an emphasis in distance/online learning.

Current Projects

CDC-DASH Professional Learning Collaborative